Lesbian Christian Identity

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The purpose of the study is to explore and distinguish identity management strategies used by lesbian Christians. The strategies were informed by Erving Goffman's book, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Based on his work, six different scales were created: normalization, passing, ambivalence, superiority, minstrelization, and group affiliation. Additionally, a measure of evangelical Christian identity was created using church affiliations, self-identification as an evangelical, and beliefs consonant with evangelicalism. The creation of the evangelical identity indicator is explained in the JSSR article. The article cites other variables created through the coding of responses to open-ended questions. These variables include: the source of dissonance between religious beliefs and sexuality as well as resolution strategies for the dissonance. Some variables have been recoded to protect the respondents' identities.

Data File
Cases: 186
Variables: 103
Weight Variable:
Data Collection
Date Collected: The data were collected in 1994 for a Master's thesis, by using a self-administered survey.
Funded By
The Association for the Sociology of Religion's Fichter grant on Women and Religion provided partial funding for the data collection.
Collection Procedures
A total of 275 surveys were mailed or hand-delivered to a convenience sample of women who had seen an advertisement for the study
Sampling Procedures
A total of 275 surveys were mailed or hand-delivered to a convenience sample of women who had seen an advertisement for the study. Completed surveys totaled 186. The response rate is 68 percent. The criteria for inclusion in the study were that the women had to selfidentify as lesbian or bisexual and at one time been affiliated with a Christian church. More specifically, this author sent letters of introduction and an advertisement to twenty-one gay, Christian organizations. These groups were selected for their diverse religious affiliations and had been advertised in a gay, Christian newspaper Second Stone. Eighteen of the groups represented specific denominations and three were interdenominational groups. Based on some of the inquiries, the author realized that someone had placed two additional ads- one in an interdenominational newsletter and the other in a specific church's monthly newsletter.

Letters and flyers were also mailed to women's bookstores in Portsmouth,NH; Cambridge,MA; Northampton, MA; Provincetown, MA; and Baltimore, MD. These cities were selected because they have large lesbian populations residing either within or nearby. Solicitation packages were also sent to six lesbian support groups in New Hampshire. Tlu'ee therapists in the greater Boston area received letters, flyers and several surveys to distribute. None of the therapists
were given more than six surveys and ten flyers each.

Next, notices were posted on two lesbian, gay and bisexual, e-mail bulletin boards. One was specifically a gay, Christian bulletin board. Again, someone forwarded notice of this research to an indeterminable number of other electronic bulletin boards. On six occasions, women contacted this author and requested packages of surveys and envelopes to distribute to friends. Lastly, this author distributed surveys to friends who in turn contacted their friends. All potential participants received a letter of introduction, survey and postage-paid mailing envelope.
Principal Investigators
Kimberly A. Mahaffy, Associate Professor and Director of Latino Studies, Millersville University
Related Publications
Mahaffy, Kimberly. 1996. "Cognitive Dissonance and Its Resolution: A Study of Lesbian Christians." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 35(4): 392-402.

Mahaffy, Kimberly. 1995. Managing a Lesbian Christian Identity. Unpublished Master's thesis. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire.